Category Archives: design

It’s Complicated

These days when people people ask me what I’ve been up to, the answers can get quite convoluted. So in the absence of a FaceBook account here’s a sampling of some recent projects, and just enough back story to make it seem coherent.

Followers of this site will be familiar with my researches into the Marshall McLuhan fonds, work that some intrepid Berliners have recently revived by marrying a poor quality lecture video to the hundreds of images that were the crux of the original presentation. The result is the Hybrid Lecture Player.

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We’re currently seeking support to go deeper (and go public) with this project. The hope is to make each image into a virtual slide down a documentary rabbit hole, for those who choose to explore. We were met with enthusiastic interest in recent conversations with the McLuhan family, and the Berliners have piqued the interest of universities in Europe and the US. All of this international attention may be enough to win the eventual support of Canadian institutions, including the LAC whose new director says he wants to revive the exhibitions and programming that have been conspicuously absent in recent years. With luck the promised exhibitions will expand beyond war and hockey.

In addition to that archival work I’m getting back into museums, by way of the academy and the internet. I’ve researched, catalogued, taught and curated in museums for much of my career, which took a downturn in summer 2011 when I was one of five curators laid off from the struggling National Gallery of Canada. The abolition of my position as Curator of International (i.e. non-Canadian) Art brought the total to seventy lost positions by the time I was out of the picture. That’s a conservative estimate, since it doesn’t count moribund positions like the curatorship of Modern Art, a role that I subsumed a few years prior to that. I found it rewarding to acquire 20thC works such as a unique Warhol print donated by a couple in Toronto and this crazy thing which I found at auction and paid for with repatriation monies from Heritage Canada.

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I also developed a deep respect for minimalist art while creating a glorious gallery for Judd, Andre and Flavin works that has since been dismantled. Continue reading

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Blueprint for Counter Education Redivivus

I just received word that Paul Cronin, Rob Giampietro, Adam Michaels and Jeffrey T. Schnapp received a generous Graham Foundation grant for an exhibition analyzing and completing the inimitable Blueprint for Counter Education by Maurice R. Stein and Larry Miller, from which I quoted in this recent post. At the time I was writing a last-minute letter of support for the grant proposal, which I reckon it’s now safe to share with a new image and a few links. The fact that it fits 18 of my 30 subject tags indicates the project’s richness and its closeness to my heart! The Chicago-based Graham Foundation Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts is a wonderful institution that supported my first and last translation effort in the late ’90s.

Maurice R. Stein, Larry Miller & Marshall Henrichs; Blueprint for Counter Education, 1970, New York. Photo: Project Projects.

Maurice R. Stein, Larry Miller & Marshall Henrichs; Blueprint for Counter Education, 1970, New York. Photo: Project Projects.

23 January 2014 Dear Sir or Madam, I am writing in support of the project Blueprint for (a Media Archeology of) Counter Education, as presented to the Graham Foundation’s “Production and Presentation” grant category by Jeffrey Schnapp, Adam Michaels and Rob Giampietro. The proposed project as a natural successor to Schnapp and Michaels’ triumphant The Electric Information Age Book (TEAIB), an experiment intimately linked to the Blueprint project in form and subject matter. The book TEAIB defines the parameters of a short-lived and largely forgotten type of publication, variously described as the kinetic paperback, the inventory book and the experimental paperback. Beginning with The Medium is the Massage—the groundbreaking 1967 book written by Marshall McLuhan, designed by Quentin Fiore and ‘produced’ by Jerome Agel—these revolutionary little books rewrite the rules of style, layout and distribution. They also declare the irrelevance of divisions between highbrow and lowbrow, art and advertising, word and image, and (most crucially) form and content. This complicated mix of moves perfectly embodies McLuhan’s observation that the medium is the message. Continue reading

remember your life up to this point, then forget it

Marshall Henrichs, Poster #3 for the “Blueprint for Counter Education”: Modernism as Meditative Environment / Post-modernism as participatory environment …

In honour of main man Phil Ford‘s latest spate of alt-pedagogical ramblings over at Dial M, here are some excerpts from a Norman Birnbaum review in Change, vol. 2, no. 5 (Sep. – Oct., 1970), pp. 69-74. Thanks Jeffrey Schnapp for alerting me to this. -GL

Before us is a Blueprint for Counter Education, described as “curriculum handbook, wall decoration, shooting script,” and prepared by Maurice Stein (age 44, formerly professor of sociology at Brandeis and now dean of humanities at the California Institute of the Arts) and Larry Miller (age 24, one of Stein’s students at Brandeis). Blueprint consists of a box with the following description:

Inside this box are three charts and a book, the tools for creating a new educational environment. This counter-university makes obsolete the traditional university process. Surrounded by charts, the participant will be confronted by ideas and issues that compel him to interact with everything going on around him—from movies, to riots, to political campaigns. There is no textbook, no syllabus, no final exam; and the “Faculty” includes Marcuse, McLuhan, Eldridge Cleaver and Jean-Luc Godard, The Revolution Starts Here. Continue reading

Reflections on My First Year of Blogging

My blogging career began exactly a year ago today on a hastily-assembled Tumblr page called Boring from Within. The unexpected catalyst was the tragic death of my friend Aaron Swartz, the great activist to whom I also dedicate the present post.

I ended post #1 by saying that “I feel compelled to grieve with this, my first really public pronouncement [in close to a decade]. I’m not sure what’s next, but under the circumstances being quietly bereft and outraged doesn’t feel like an adequate response.”

As it turned out I mainly used that site for agitprop that I made in an effort to learn Adobe Illustrator. The first and most popular of these quoted Philip K. Dick’s advice for surviving in a surveillance state. Most of the other posts were likewise centred around freedom of speech and consciousness.

After splitting in June between Tumblr and this WordPress site I made a lot of what I called “meta-posts” on both sites—i.e. posts pointing to content on the other site. This strategy of being in two places at once is not unrelated to the PKD quotation imploring us to evade the state by way of various ruses.

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Elsewhere

Heading into the new year my web activity is all happening elsewhere.

Audiocasts (over at Slow Ottawa)

Audiocast #4: Living Lightly with David Chernushenko.  A talk with Ottawa city councilor David Chernushenko, a tireless local advocate for living lightly and  active transport.

Audiocast #3: Coming Home to Centretown. Graham Larkin chats for an hour with Elspeth McKay, Executive Director of the Operation Come Home youth centre in Ottawa.

Audiocast #2: Walking with Dan Rubinstein. Graham Larkin chats for an hour with award-winning journalist Dan Rubinstein about his Born to Walk project.

 Audiocast #1: The Future Isn’t what it Used to Be.  A six-minute teaser recorded on a bad microphone.

Adventures in Multimodal Design 2.0

And another season of the Adventures in Multimodal Design graduate seminar is underway at the Carleton University architecture school. Continue reading

Meta Post: Slow Ottawa

Did you miss me?

I’ve been busy trying to scrounge a living over here with my most ambitious and elegant web project to date, a guide to sustainable living in Canada’s capital. I’m five days in, and already I’ve made $40. I’ll be adding blog and audiocast profiles of local initiatives in the coming weeks. If you know anyone who’s into righteous poverty and/or saving the planet, kindly spread the word.

As ever,

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Beyond Nerf Education

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In this evening’s blog post “Coverage and Exploration” my man Phil Ford laments:

Our students, products of the no-child-left-behind era of “accountability” and quantifiable results, expect a full reckoning of everything they will ever be expected to do in a semester. In the years I’ve been teaching, the typical syllabus has grown in size from a simple 1-3 page statement of aims and procedures to a swollen pseudo-legal document that assumes the character of a contract. The more suspicious or legalistic of our students come to treat every class like a drawn-out game of Simon Says and act like the prof can’t legitimately ask them to do anything that isn’t explicitly laid out in the syllabus. The syllabus-as-legal-contract suits the administrators, politicians, and parents who don’t trust the professors any more than the students do. And professors, including myself, go along with it, even if they don’t really like it.

Testify, brother! The biggest problem in this age of lawyers and helicopter parenting is that everything has to be *fail safe*. (I’m pretty sure it was Phil himself who hipped me to the wonderful term Nerf Education; he may have invented it.) In my risk-averse neck of the woods (Canada’s capital) I’ve been told on good authority that there’s little point in applying for government funding for academic projects unless you can demonstrate positive results in advance. Evidently the Age of Exploration is over. Continue reading